Web Analytics, A challenge per month

Recently I’ve seen posts which have described web analytics as hard, or complex but not hard.

I agree with these sentiments. Avinash is doing a stellar job of trying to show how you can get some quick wins with web analytics (he mentioned a 3 hour turnaround) and this is possible when you have a good set-up and know what you’re doing – or can go through the steps which Avinash describes.

Eric Peterson’s position (web analytics is hard) is one I have personally witnessed when he visited Finland last year. His presentation was followed with sighs of relief by some of the audience. A number of my clients came up to me afterward and said it was one of the most refreshing talks they had witnessed.

I found myself thinking about some of the challenges I’ve faced over the past twelve months and decided to list some of them here. Hopefully those of you reading this can take some solace from it.

January 07: Data integrity: A campaign site I was working with was designed by an external agency in Flash. I am based in Finland, the agency is based in the US. The flash site had every single event (rollovers, movies and buttons) tagged and sending hits to the data collection server. Each hit had the same page name in HBX meaning I had completely meaningless data. Due to the geography of the external agency and oursleves, it took one month to fix which was half the length of the campaign.

Feb 07: Shopping cart abandonment problem of 95-99%. My client complained that I told him his cart “probably needed work” on improving the user experience. This wasn’t a web analytics problem it was a political one. Changing the cart was simply bad news the client didn’t want to digest!

Mar 07: Data Integrity: I found another 6 problems which took 3 months to fix with one client site which again was primarily designed with flash technology. This is not the fault of the flash design, it’s the lack of education agencies have about tagging flash technology.

Apr 07: Data mismatches: I had one client who didn’t understand the difference between Clicks and visits. Clicks came from Google data directly. Visits came from people that stayed on the page long enough for the tags on the page to load. The difference was significant due to long page load times.

May 07: A segment was deemed in-efficient because a flash website was sending 6 hits to the collection server before the visitor did anything. The segment was measuring folk that were on the site for a minimum of 3 page views and one minute but because 6 “page views” were sent by the flash movie the visitor qualified almost as soon as the movie was loaded. This was due to bad communication between the analytics agency and flash design agency.

Jun 07: Global websites. A client whom had localized websites in 40 countries needed to get information about how a product was selling in each country. The client had 40 different accounts, one for each country. This meant either a massive job of retrieving data about the product from each account or another massive job of double tagging each account to a “global account” so we could get all the data in one place. The second option was also much more expensive as it effectively doubled the amount of traffic to the collection server.

Jul 07: Global websites using 5 different shopping carts. We had one enterprise client that used different shopping carts for different regions around the world (due to different parts of the company buying different shopping cart services from different vendors). This meant we had to track a product sale across different carts in different countries leading to all sorts of problems.

Aug 07: Tracking mobile traffic. The vendors have not really figured out the best way to track mobile device usage on websites. This has improved since it was raised.

Sep 07: Tracking mobile applications. Widsets and Widgets could not be tracked effectively from mobile phone usage to site and vice versa. This is still an issue.

Oct 07: Lack of KPIs. A client was looking at data received and congratulating themselves on the amount of traffic they had. However they weren’t translating it to sales, they weren’t looking at where people were abandoning the site or leaving the processes. They weren’t looking at the best reach sources to optimize campaigns. This wasn’t because they didn’t know they could do this but because they didn’t have a KPI process in place to tell them so.

Nov 07: Lack of education. The clients people were completely unaware of the benefits of web analytics and a whole education process had to begin before work with tools could actually be started.

Dec 07: Multi-channel measurement. One client wanted to know how to track mobile website usage, print ads, event screens, website usage, TV and Radio ads for multi-channel campaign. All doable with web analytics.

Jan 08: Excel integration. One client needed some complex KPIs set-up for weekly benchmarks. We want to be able to draw the website traffic information into excel directly (by pressing a button every week all the KPI’s update) and report but more importantly act on the KPIs defined. The problem exisited due to a complex internal problem involving firewalls, HTTPS access and ODBC database access.

I can say with confidence that every one of the challenges we had was overcome (apart from September but even that is progressing), because we know pretty much how to fix the problems and come up with solutions for these issues. That’s because it’s what we do every day and probably I could come up with a challenge per week. However these are just a few of the reasons that clients who don’t do this every day find web analytics hard.

Find yourself nodding at any of the above? Add your own…

Steve is a well known analytics specialist, author and speaker. A pioneer since 2002, he established one of the first European web analytics consultancies (Aboavista), later acquired by Satama (now Trainers’ House) in 2006. In 2008 he wrote his first book Cult Of Analytics published on May 14th 2009. He currently serves as CEO at Quru and has presented and keynoted web analytics topics across Europe. These include The Internet Marketing Conference (Stockholm), The Search Engine strategies (Stockholm), IIH (Copenhagen), the IAB Finland (Helsinki), Media Plaza (Amsterdam), Design For Conversion (Amsterdam) The eMetrics Summit (London, Munich, Stockholm), Divia (Helsinki) in addition to sitting on dozens of panels.

Posted in General, Web Analytics

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5 comments on “Web Analytics, A challenge per month
  1. Gosh! And I thought I was alone in Hell! Been through almost all of those points myself, too.

    Aren’t we having fun, or what? And don’t we hate Flash…

    Great post. Made me laugh and cry at the same time.

  2. Thanks for the post, You’re not alone! Yes, I hate flash, not the technology (which is quite cool) but the fact that most of it is badly used and rarely is it measured optimally by the time I see it. :)

  3. I feel your pain, Steve. Your list really highlights the fact that our technical challenges and business challenges are so intertwined. We’ve got problems with data collection, data integrity, data access, data interpretation … all the way from the source to the destination. And these are exactly the challenges that are faced by anyone who’s got a professional focus on web measurement.

  4. Thanks Steve, I have thought about writing my own experiences similarly. When you have customer’s top management involved in and educated, things start to develop much faster. So one challenge is defenitely how customer’s team or project should be organized, starting from the top. Have to talk with you more about Flash, e.g. tracking Digipaper.

  5. June Thanks and yes the challenge is very intertwined. I think what we’re facing really is a change management issue. My feeling is that as companies learn that they have to adapt to the so called “new economy” where their marketing is increasingly being spent in online activities we need to somehow get the analytics culture into that new mix of competences being sought.

    Petri Welcome comments as always. Top management is critical to changing the way people think. They don’t have to be involved but they do have to understand. This is what I meant in replying to June. We need to take advantage of the fact that e-business, or e-commerce steering groups are popping up in most companies. These have been designed because top management get that “online” is important. That in itself is often enough. Focusing efforts on the group steering the online ship means you can show them what works and what doesn’t in relation to their business.

    Regards flash, I look forward to your comments. I’ll talk to you about it on the next WAW in Helsinki.

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